“NOTE: This information-only article may help you better understand the terms, definitions, and language used in legal paternity situations and is not legal advice. For specific legal advice, please contact a lawyer in your state.
Studies show that one in ten people have a paternity-related question. Often the question of paternity is a simple one, and those involved just need the peace of mind that comes with knowing who is the father. But legal questions about paternity can get far more complicated. For example:
- Who is allowed to go to court to determine the father of a child ?
- When can a case be filed with the court and how much time do you have to establish paternity?
- What is the court process in a paternity case?
- What evidence is used in paternity cases to prove the existence of a parent-child relationship?
- How does one go about getting a legal paternity test?
Having answers to questions like these can give you a better understanding of the legal paternity process, and may be important to protecting your right to be involved in the child’s life.
Using the State of Colorado as an example, we’ve researched a few answers to commonly-asked legal paternity questions. Of course, laws vary from state to state and you should contact a local lawyer where you live for answers to your specific questions.
Who is allowed to go to court to determine the father of a child ?
- The child
- The biological mother
- The alleged father
- A representative from the State of residence
- A representative from the Department of Human Services
- A county department representative of social services
When can a case be filed with the court and how much time do you have to establish paternity?
- A paternity case can be filed anytime before the child’s 18th birthday, if trying to prove a parent-child relationship.
- To prove that a man is NOT the father of the child, parties must file within a reasonable time after the man finds out someone may claim he is the father, and definitely before the child’s fifth birthday.
- Child support enforcement agencies can bring an action on behalf of the child at any time before his or her 21st birthday, if the amount of time allowed to bring the suit was less than 18 years when the child was born. A child can bring an action anytime before his or her 21st birthday.
What is the court process in a paternity case?
- An informal hearing is scheduled first with the court. If it is determined by the court to be in the child’s best interests, a hearing is then ordered to have the case heard before a judge.
- The court may determine that in the best interest of both parties, the hearing may not to be open to the public.
- A record of what happens at this hearing will be kept if any party requests it.
- If any witness refuses to testify, the court can order the witness to testify and produce evidence related to all relevant facts in the case.
- Any party may seek a restraining order, injunction, temporary orders as to custody, parenting time, and support as soon as the court enters an order determining the existence of the parent-child relationship.
NOTE: Issues of temporary custody, parenting time, and support are decided under a different set of rules established by each State.
What evidence is used in paternity cases to prove the existence of a parent-child relationship?
- Evidence of sexual intercourse between the mother and the alleged father at any time that would make it possible for the child to have been conceived during that encounter.
- An expert’s opinion that based on the duration of the mother’s pregnancy, there is a chance that the man could be the father.
- Medical or anthropological evidence
- Legal DNA Paternity Test (through DNA Diagnostics Center, which is the parent company of HomeDNA ) with a witnessed 3rd party collection
How do I get a legal paternity test?
- It should be noted that there is a difference between a ‘personal’ HomeDNA paternity test, and a ‘legal’ DNA paternity test. To be considered a ‘legal’ test, the swab collection needs to be performed with a witnessed third-party DNA collector. Typically, an additional fee per person is paid to the collection service for this process. This unbiased collection prevents sample tampering, and provides a chain-of-custody process for samples: from collection to results
- An at-home kit cannot be used for legal purposes, but a legal paternity test can be ordered through our parent company DNA Diagnostics Center (DDC) or by calling 800-681-7162. Already have a home kit? No problem: We’ll credit your account for the cost of the kit
- We will set up an appointment with a collector near you
- In order to maintain chain of custody, we must send the kit directly to the approved collector. You cannot take a kit with you to the appointment
- Collectors will send documentation and collected samples back to the lab on your behalf
- After samples arrive at the lab it will take two (2) business days to receive your results. The secure and private results will be available online (where you can also print them).
(Colorado Judicial Branch. For State-specific information, call the courthouse in your community.)
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